NEWS
05/23/2016 04:00 EDT | Updated 05/24/2017 01:12 EDT

NYC incident sparks debate about etiquette between tourists and street performers

MONTREAL — When Montreal folk singer Jason Deeh Pitre performs for tourists in front of the stately Notre-Dame Basilica, he doesn't solicit money if someone asks him to be in on a souvenir snapshot.

Three-quarters of the time, something gets thrown into his guitar case anyway.

"I'm an artist,'' Deeh Pitre said in an interview. ''I'm not a homeless person. It's a show, so if you like it, throw something in, and if you don't, well, sorry. So I don't ask, I just sing."

His comments are just one take on what the proper etiquette should be with regard to the interaction between street performers and tourists following a recent altercation in New York City.

Jermaine Himmelstein was arrested for allegedly socking a Canadian tourist when she refused to tip him after a hug and a photo.

Fred and Janette Howse, who were visiting Montreal from their native Wales, agreed the alleged punch was completely inappropriate but she said a fee should have been expected — especially in New York City.

"It's a bit naive to think that these people would do it for nothing," she said as they toured the popular Jacques-Cartier Square.

A better alternative, they added, would be to have asked for the money before the photo was taken.

Carlos Silva, who has been performing in the square with his band for more than 10 years, said that while Himmelstein may have had no other source of income, violence is never an option.

While his band members often have photos taken with tourists, they never ask for money in exchange, he added.

"It's really CD sales that support us," said Silva, adding it contravenes city rules for performers to ask for cash.

Breanne McLeavy, a Vancouverite who was also visiting Montreal, said tourists will want to pay street performers who are good at what they do.

"If you're asking for money after the fact, that's inappropriate," she said.

''If you said upfront this is going to cost you $1 and then you don't pay, then that's a different story...But if they don't want to pay you that's their discretion. You're out in the public, and I think it's their right to pay you a lot, or a little, or (nothing)."